BWW Review: A WIND IN THE DOOR at the Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center’s world premiere adaptation of the young adult fantasy classic brings the novel’s unique blend of sci-fi and whimsical poetry to life.

The Kennedy Center’s Performances for Young Audiences season is back, and it kicked off with a world premiere adaptation of the young adult fantasy classic A Wind in the Door. This wildly imaginative tale by Madeleine L’Engle is best known as the sequel to her Newbery Medal-winning novel A Wrinkle in Time, which has sparked multiple stage and film adaptations.

A Wind in the Door might have been slightly overshadowed by the acclaim of its literary predecessor, but it tells a story that’s innovative and thrilling in its own right. The Kennedy Center’s adaptation by Jacqueline Goldfinger and directed by Nicole A. Watson brings the novel’s unique blend of sci-fi and whimsical poetry to life in a whirlwind performance.

From its very beginning, A Wind in the Door strikes a delicate balance between the peppy silliness of a kid-friendly adventure and the solemnity of a transcendent journey across the galaxy. It’s dizzying in just the right way as the audience is thrown into the supernatural world of Meg and Charles Wallace‘s attic, where magical beings suddenly appear and an imaginary sub-cellular structure called the farandolae contains the secret to the universe’s salvation.

BWW Review: A WIND IN THE DOOR at the Kennedy Center
Tyasia Velines as Progo and Alicia Grace as Meg go on a journey together in the Kennedy Center’s A Wind in the Door. Photo by Teresa Wood.

While the show plays with different fantastical scenarios, the crux of the drama is that Meg’s (Alicia Grace) little brother Charles Wallace (David Landstrom) is dying due to a disorder of his farandolae. Her earthly friend Calvin (Vaughn Ryan Midder) and otherworldly friend Progo (Tyasia Velines) need to find a way to make him well. To do this, they must complete a series of tests from an ethereal cosmic instructor named Blajeny (Lynette Rathnam), fight an evil force called the Echthroi who are attempting to “X” or eliminate everything in the universe, and communicate with each other telepathically through a process called “kything.” And finally, they must travel inside Charles Wallace‘s mitochondria to convince a particular farandolae called Sporos to “take root” and resist the chaotic influence of the Echthroi.https://e0f049babf827176dd0eb23c4f3b662c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

This is a lot to tackle in just 60 minutes, but the Kennedy Center’s smart and heartfelt adaptation manages to crystallize the big ideas with time to spare for the grade school good stuff, from physical comedy to puppet dances. It’s a bit ambitious, but A Wind in the Door gets the job done – part of the play’s storytelling approach is to pepper in clearly formulated lessons about friendship, bravery, and loss, and while this might feel a bit didactic for adult audience members, it captures the spirit of L’Engle’s prose.

A Wind in the Door is also just fun to look at: the costumes by Ivania Stack and puppets by Matt-a-Magical were dazzlingly fun. For a show with minimal set changes, it was visually lush enough to hold the attention of even the most Tik Tok-steeped elementary schooler. This was largely due to the combination of the absolutely breathtaking lighting design by Sherrice Mojgani and sound by Tosin Olufolabi.

Beyond the beautiful visuals and ambiance, the show was carried by a spectacular cast. Alicia Grace brought bubbly energy and warmth to the character of Meg, simultaneously capturing her childlike wonder and maturity beyond her years. Tyasia Velines held the audience in the palm of their hand as Progo – perhaps a poor characterization here, since Progo’s hands are not palmed but rather take the form of additional heads, complete with snouts and wide eyes. Indeed, Velines made the unique physicality of this wondrous supernatural creature their own with charisma and (literal) panache. David Landstrom‘s endearing Charles Wallace embodied the boy genius in all his stuffy-nosed fragility. Vaughn Ryan Midder was delightful as Calvin, and Lynette Rathnam‘s Blajeny was captivating underneath a stunning costume that you have to see in person to fully experience.

BWW Review: A WIND IN THE DOOR at the Kennedy Center
Vaughn Ryan Midder, Alicia Grace, David Landstrom, Lynette Rathnam, and Tyasia Velines make up the dynamic ensemble cast of the Kennedy Center’s A Wind in the Door. Photo by Teresa Wood.

One of Madeleine L’Engle’s biggest talents is connecting the cosmic to the personal, and this synthesis between the vast and intimate is captured beautifully in Jacqueline Goldfinger’s adaptation. While concepts like the importance of “taking root” and Meg’s power to “name” people for who they are might seem a bit abstract for an elementary or middle schooler, A Wind in the Door makes big themes tangible and accessible without talking down to its audience.

The idea of love vanquishing darkness is not exactly radical, but it’s not every day that the triumph of good over evil is depicted through squirming farandolae or the feather of a many-eyed heavenly being. In the world of A Wind in the Door, we all depend on each other to survive (no matter how many eyes we have), and whether we look out for one another can determine the fate of us all. It’s a timeless lesson and one that couldn’t be more important for the times we live in now.

Running time: 60 minutes

A Wind in the Door at the Kennedy Center is playing through September 11, 2021, and the production will be streaming later in the fall for school audiences. The show is recommended for ages 9 and up. Tickets are $20 per person, and you can go here to reserve your seat. Information about the Kennedy Center’s Covid-19 requirements can be found here.

Read the full article by Dara Homer from Broadway World, Washington DC here.

Kennedy Center opens a fantastic ‘Wind in the Door’ for kids

The Kennedy Center’s world premiere commission of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door opened over Labor Day weekend to a much deserved standing ovation. The sequel to A Wrinkle in Time, and second installment of L’Engle’s Time Quartet, was adapted for the stage by Jacqueline Goldfinger and features the beloved characters Charles Wallace, Meg, and Calvin as they battle an evil force, which threatens all existence, through a series of tests.

Vaughn Ryan Midder, Alicia Grace, David Landstrom, Lynette Rathnam, and Tyasia Velines (Puppet by Matthew McGee) in ‘A Wind in the Door.’ Photo by Teresa Wood.

Director Nicole A. Watson brings the story to life with a five-person cast and a gorgeous set designed by Luciana Stecconi. The production includes a towering puppet (by Matt-a-Magic) and a lovable dragon-esque creature named Progo, charmingly played by Tyasia Velines, with a magically colorful costume (designed by Ivania Stack) using Velines’s arms as dragon necks with a head on each hand.

Alicia Grace and David Landstrom in ‘A Wind in the Door.’ Photo by Teresa Wood.

The story begins with Meg, played by Alicia Grace, worrying about her brother, Charles Wallace (David Landstrom), who is not well and keeps getting sicker. With the help of her good friend Calvin (Vaughn Ryan Midder), they encourage Charles Wallace to hunker down in a warm blanket so he can rest while they read a book to him.

But the trio is interrupted by an intergalactic Teacher named Blejany (Lynette Rathnam), who tells them that Charles Wallace is in danger and they must go on a mission to save him from the evil Echthros and restore balance to the Universe. 

They will not be alone, though; Blejany has brought them a guide named Progo (Velines) to help them along the way. With the creature’s help they agree to take on this enormous task and determine to save Charles Wallace and, in turn, the entire world.

In the first test, three replicas of Calvin appear. The actors are all wearing the same outfit, with an emotionless mask to hide their faces, all claiming to be Calvin and posturing like him. Meg must name them all and discover who is the real Calvin. The scene is a bit sinister but with enough humor to keep from being scary. The Calvins slither around Meg doing different moves and tricks to plead their case. But ultimately, because Meg knows Calvin’s heart so well, she is able to be rid of the imposters and find the real Calvin.

And this is the nature of the tests Meg must perform. She uses her knowledge and fortitude to find the truths and fight against deceit, flattery, and destruction, for the good of all. Grace portrays Meg’s struggle with a brilliant balance of youthful self-doubt and honest determination.

Tyasia Velines and Alicia Grace in ‘A Wind in the Door.’ Photo by Teresa Wood.

The entire cast does an impressive job and the show has a steady-paced, high-energy, suspenseful vibe that holds the audience’s engagement throughout the production. My 12- year-old attended with me and was shocked when only five actors appeared at the curtain call, asking “Where are the rest of the people?”— which speaks to the seamless performances and transitions by the crew.

A Wind in the Door is a heart-warming tale about love, hope, and responsibility. The story addresses the unpleasant truth that there are many evils in the world. And though things may not seem to affect us all directly, these evils could ultimately destroy our world if we do not band together and fight. This message transcends into so much that is going on today. Climate change, civil rights, prejudice, and mental health stigmas. The list is endless.

Alicia Grace and Vaughn Ryan Midder in ‘A Wind in the Door.’ Photo by Teresa Wood.

The Kennedy Center has created a fantastic, original production with a subtle yet powerful message that all youth should hear. With a knockout cast and impressive production team, A Wind in the Door is destined to become a new family favorite.

Read the article from Kendall Mostafavai at the DC Metro here.

Running Time: Approximately 60 minutes, with no intermission. Most enjoyed by 9+

A Wind in the Door plays September 2 through 11, 2021, at The Kennedy Center Family Theater, 2700 F St. NW, Washington, D.C. Tickets are available online or by calling the box office at (202) 416-8540.

Cast:  Alicia Grace (Meg Murry), David Landstrom (Charles Wallace), Vaughn Ryan Midder (Calvin O’Keefe), Lynette Rathnam (Blageny), and Tyasia Velines (Progo)

Creative Team: Director – Nicole A. Watson; Playwright – Jacqueline Goldfinger; Dramaturg – Martine Kei Green-Rogers; Stage Manager – Rachael Danielle Albert; Costume Designer – Ivania Stack; Sound Designer – Tosin Olufolabi; Properties Artisan – Patti Kalil; Production Assistant – Stephen Bubniak; Scenic Designer – Luciana Stecconi; Lighting Designer – Sherrice Mojgani; Puppets – Matt-a-Magical; Assistant Director – Agyeiwaa Asante; Casting Director – Michelle Kozlak

Khalia Davis Directs Online Play to Help Kids Grasp Racism at Orlando Repertory Theatre

The cast and crew of "A Kids Play About Racism."
The cast and crew of “A Kids Play About Racism.” (Orlando Repertory Theatre / Courtesy photo)

Orlando Repertory Theatre is among 41 theaters nationwide co-presenting the online premiere of a free play about racism designed for children, and this version is directed by Khalia Davis of the Gurman Agency LLC.

“A Kids Play About Racism” will be shown Aug. 1-2 in the hopes of giving families a way to engage in meaningful conversation about racial issues. The play is adapted from “A Kids Book About Race” by Jelani Memory, a Black father with six children of different races.

Orlando Rep and the other presenters, led by the Bay Area Children’s Theatre in California, Seattle Children’s Theatre and Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, specialize in theater for young audiences. The online presentation of “A Kids Play About Racism” will be available at get.broadwayondemand.com.

“This performance explains what racism is, how to know it when you see and experience it, and ideas for what you can do about it,” reads the website, kidsplayabout.org. The production is recommended for ages 5 and up.

Read the full article by Matthew J. Palm from the Orlando Sentinel here.

Kate McKinnon Starring in Netflix Revival of The Magic School Bus: Rides Again

Ms. Frizzle is back — sort of!

PEOPLE can exclusively reveal that Saturday Night Live‘s Kate McKinnon will be starring in Netflix’s revival of The Magic School Bus: Rides Again as the voice of teacher Fiona.  Fiona, who is the sister to the the original Ms. Valerie Frizzle, will bring the same comedy mayhem and science education as the original educational ’90s series.  Frizzle.  The TV series — which premiered on Sept.10, 1994, is based on the book series of the same name by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen.

Read the full story here!

Chicago Director/Playwright Ernie Nolan Picked To Lead Nashville Children’s Theatre

Ernie Nolan

Ernie Nolan, an award-winning director and playwright based in Chicago, has been named as the new artistic director of Nashville Children’s Theatre, beginning February 1, 2017. Nolan succeeds Scot Copeland, NCT Producing Artistic Director for 31 years, who died unexpectedly in February of this year.

“I am thrilled beyond measure to declare Ernie Nolan NCT’s next artistic director,” says Jamie Eskind, NCT Board Chair. “Ernie is an artist of the highest caliber and an esteemed leader in the field of theatre for young audiences. His inspired vision, collaborative spirit, and investment in what is special about NCT are the precise combination of abilities required to lead NCT into the future.”

“I am incredibly honored to be a part of NCT’s rich history of exceptional theatre for young people,” says Nolan. “I feel so lucky to be able to call an organization with such talented artists, top notch staff, and dedicated board my new home. I look forward to serving the children, families, and teachers of Nashville with programming that reflects Nashville’s amazing community and bring stories to life that both inspire emotional discovery and ignite a fierce passion for the arts.”

Nolan, in 2014, was the recipient of the Illinois Theatre Association’s Award for Excellence in Theatre for Young Audiences. As former Artistic Director of Emerald City Theatre, he helped create The Little Theatre, the nation’s first performance space dedicated exclusively to interactive and immersive theatrical experiences for early theatre goers ages five and under.

Nolan’s work as a playwright has been featured both nationally and internationally. He has adapted and directed such storybook favorites as If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, If You Take a Mouse to School, Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and The Adventures of Doctor Dolittle. His work at The Broadway Playhouse includes A Charlie Brown Christmas, Fancy Nancy The Musical, Pinkalicious, The Cat in the Hat, Cinderella, Charlotte’s Web, and the world premiere of Hansel and Gretel: A Wickedly Delicious Musical Treat, written in collaboration with GRAMMY-nominated recording artist Justin Roberts.

As resident artist of The Coterie Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, Nolan has directed and choreographed world premieres by such Tony-nominated artists as Willy and Rob Reale, Stephen Schwartz, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, and Bill Russell and Henry Krieger. For Chicago Playworks he has directed The BFG, The Giver, The Witches, A Wrinkle in Time, Number the Stars, The Day John Henry Came to School, Peter Pan and Wendy and The Kid Who Ran for President. In March 2012, Ernie made his Off-Broadway debut as a choreographer with Lucky Duck at the New Victory Theatre.

Nolan is currently the International Representative for TYA USA to ASSITEJ, a global theatre for young audiences service organization. With his appointment at NCT, he is leaving his position as Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies at The Theatre School. He is a graduate of both the University of Michigan Musical Theatre Program (BFA Musical Theatre) and The Theatre School at DePaul University (MFA Directing).

The process of identifying a new artistic director for NCT began ten months ago. Frank Parsons, of the Center for Nonprofit Management, worked with NCT to conduct the search. The NCT Board of Trustees approved Nolan’s appointment unanimously in late November.

“We looked long and hard and were extremely deliberate in our search for a new artistic director,” Craige Hoover, chair of the search committee, says. “We were determined to find all of the qualities we wanted in one candidate and we believe we have that in Ernie.”

Nolan will visit the theater periodically over the next two months as he prepares for NCT’s 2017-2018 season, and will officially assume his post in February, 2017.

Daniel Brewer, a longtime collaborator of Copeland’s at NCT, has served as interim artistic director since the latter’s death.

About Nashville Children’s Theatre Nashville Children’s Theatre is a professional theatre company providing the children, families and educators of Middle Tennessee with extraordinary shared theatrical experiences that inspire imagination, develop creativity, and build community. NCT was founded in 1931 by the Junior League of Nashville and is recognized as the oldest professional children’s theater in the country. A national leader in professional theater arts and education programs for young people, NCT was ranked by TIME magazine as one of the top five children’s theaters in the country.

This article has been pulled from BroadwayWorld.com.

Funny, Scary, Delightful: First Stage Turns ‘Goosebumps’ into a Charming Musical

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Based on the series by R.L. Stine, First Stage Associate Artistic Director John Maclay and Music Director-Composer Danny Abosch have adapted the novel into a musical which will charm audiences of all ages. The “big kids” will immediately recognize the storyline from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera while the “littler ones” easily pick up on all the Disney references. When Brooke and Zeke are cast in a show about a phantom, strange things begin to happen at the school. Is someone playing tricks? Or is there a real phantom out to stop this production?

Director Niffer Clarke masterfully keeps the silly suspense turned up high amid the solid musical numbers and her own well-executed choreography. With Stine’s books, it’s the kids who are the smart ones and Brooke and Zeke certainly rule here as they try to figure out who—or what—is actually behind all the ominous warnings.

The Chills cast of young performers handled the acting chores at last Saturday’s matinée with the utmost enthusiasm and professionalism. Chantae Miller is already a veteran of local productions and it shows in her pitch-perfect performance as Brooke. Jake Koch’s Zeke is the perfect comic foil and Mallorey Wallace hits all the rights notes (literally) as “mean girl—kinda-sorta” Tina. Veteran stage actors Carrie Hitchcock and Chris Klopatek serve this production well as the befuddled teacher and scary janitor, respectively.

Read the full article by Harry Cherkinian from the Shepherd Express here.

First Stage’s “Goosebumps” Conjures a Fabulously Frightful Night for Families

It’s not always the case that a play lives up to either its title or its billing, but First Stage, as you might expect, does just that with “Goosebumps,” which opened over the weekend.

The full title of the play is “Goosebumps: Phantom of the Auditorium: The Musical,” based on a book by R. L. Stine, who wrote a series of novels for children that have sold over 30 million copies worldwide.

The musical was yet another world premiere for First Stage and was written by John Maclay, who wrote the book, and Danny Abosch, both clients of the Gurman Agency, who wrote the music. The two combined to write some of the best and most interesting lyrics I’ve heard in a long time.

A high school drama class is going to stage a play under the thoughtful and hopeful direction of Mrs. Walker (a marvelously disguised Carrie Hitchcock). The story of the play is about a phantom who prowls the halls of the school auditorium. There are eight students (in the Chill cast which I saw Saturday) who have various roles in the production, headlined by Brooke Rodgers (Chantae Miller) and Zeke Matthews (Jake Koch) who is really the phantom.

Goosebumps runs through Nov. 13.

Read the full article by Dave Begel from OnMiluakee here.

Children’s Theatre Brings a Little ‘Grace’ to a Rough Political Season

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Grace (Talia Robinson) decides she’d like to represent her third-grade class in “Grace for President” at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte

Despite the fuss made over Hillary Clinton, Grace Campbell was the first female to declare an interest in being president in 2016. We’ll find out how she does well before November.

She’s the third-grade heroine of “Grace for President,” the musical Children’s Theatre of Charlotte commissioned and will open next week. (School performances precede the Oct. 21 opening to the public.) It’s a world premiere, though CTC allowed Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville, Ga. to do two public performances last weekend.

Back when Clinton’s candidacy was still a rumor – a likely rumor, but not confirmed – CTC artistic director Adam Burke hired Joan Cushing to write book, music and lyrics for this show. She’d done “Ella’s Big Chance” for CTC and happily dug into the story of Grace, which started life as a picture book by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrator LeUyen Pham.

It depicts the race between practical, down-to-Earth Grace and Thomas Cobb, who attains popularity by making inflated promises he can’t keep. Any similarity to the current “adult” race remains accidental, as Burke and Cushing were discussing this idea in 2014.

“We thought it would be a perfect fit for the election season of 2016,” says Burke. “Joan had a career for years as a political satirist in Washington – she played the piano (in revues) as Mrs. Foggybottom – so who better to write a musical that explains the electoral system?” Michelle Long, CTC’s director of education, will helm the show.

The kids in Ms. Barrington’s class all represent a state in the election. Not to give the ending away, but it comes down to the three electoral votes of Wyoming – which elected the first female governor in U.S. history, Nellie Tayloe Ross, in 1924.

Grace’s African-American heritage also seems timely to Burke, not just because we have a black president now but because “what’s happened in Charlotte recently has made this story relevant. It’s important for us to provide offerings that represent the whole community.”

Yet the message, he says, is less that girls can serve capably or even that African-Americans should have a hand in running the country. It’s more that “you should vote for the person most qualified to serve, whoever it may be. Vote not for what they are – Republican, Democrat, man, woman – but what they stand for.”

Read the full story by Lawrence Toppman for the Charlotte Observer here.